Stress and illness are nature’s way of telling you that you’re out of balance. All life is ruled by the interplay of two dynamic forces known in traditional Chinese medicine as yin and yang. Yin is negative, yang positive. Yin is feminine, yang masculine. Yin is passive, yang active. They’re opposite yet complementary forces, never equal, but cycle together in harmony. One is always ascending while the other descends. The yin/yang symbol is a wonderful expression of this interplay. Even though they’re opposite, yin and yang can’t exist independently. As Alan Watts put it so eloquently in Tao: The Watercourse Way, “My inside arises mutually with my outside and though the two may differ they cannot be separated.”
When the yin and yang of your body are in disharmony, it’s like trying to ride a unicycle with the spokes of the wheel short on one side and long on the other. The hub is out of centre and your ride is very bumpy. If you continue for long, you’ll break the wheel and perhaps the bike. Just so, if your body continues in disharmony for long, illness occurs.
Some aspects of Yin & Yang
A good example of how this works is caregivers—those people who give of themselves to nurture, nourish, guide and heal others. Teachers, counsellors, social workers, nurses, body workers and parents are all caregivers. When caregivers are living harmoniously, they balance giving (yang) and receiving (yin) so they don’t deplete their reserves. They know when they’re in need of care and allow themselves time to receive to balance their giving. However, many caregivers ignore their own needs until they’ve given so much of themselves that body and soul begin to cry out, “What about me?” The imbalance begins to affect their health, sleep, emotions, focus and relationships.
The cure is simple in this case. Balance can be re-established by receiving what was given in excess. Take the time to nourish yourself, to nurture yourself. There are many ways to find your way back to balance. You may find that one method works best for you or you may find that you need a little of various methods. Here are a few suggestions on how to begin:
- Reach out to nature – take a walk and absorb the qi of nature into yourself with every breath.
- Nutrition – take time to eat health foods instead of grazing on empty junk.
- Water – plenty of pure, clean water will help flush out toxins and rehydrate you. Most people underestimate their need for water.
- Meditation – employ some quality quiet time to get in touch with yourself—realize where you’ve become deficient and work to correct the deficiency.
- Bodywork – focused attention from a body worker allows guilt-free relaxation and releases the physical manifestations of stress.
- Medical qi gong – these practitioners specialize in recognizing the many faces of disharmony and balancing the qi of the body.
- Tai chi and qi gong classes – these movements help to balance body, mind and spirit so that you will recognize disharmony before it gets out of hand.
Learning to harmonize your life will smooth out the highs and lows so the ride won’t be quite so bumpy. Things that trigger stress in you will begin to lose their power over you. If you’re one of those people riding a lopsided unicycle, consider balancing your spokes and coming back to centre and harmony.
Interested in learning about qi gong? Read QI GONG: An effective antidote to modern stress
image: Digitalnative (Creative Commons BY-SA)